Spoilers: None

Author's Notes: I feel I should warn everyone right off the bat - NO BETA READERS were involved in the writing of this fic. Consequently, it's probably a bit scatterbrained. "Options" was spawned from one of those ideas that popped into my head at 1 in the morning when I'd given up trying to study for a horrid midterm - what if Michael wasn't the only option? And if so, why would Morris choose him? I'm pretty much getting this sucker out of my system so I can go back to my paper. The concussion bit is somewhat accurate, since that's what a Marine I know did. There is one obscure in-joke in here to "Stargate: SG-1," but it's just a passing reference.

Feedback, even monosyllabic feedback, is appreciated. :)


by Amanda Ohlin

Theo frowned at the file spread out on the table before him. In the space of an hour, he had managed to procure the family history, educational records, medical records, previous psychiatric evaluations, military records, and more pertaining to the candidate's background. After scanning through an entire life's worth of documentation, only one thing was clear.

He did not want this brain.

Within two days after his team had reached the point of no return, a car crash had turned what was once a United States Marine into a vegetable. At first glance, it looked like a perfect setup. His colleagues supported the choice, lauded it even. But Theo knew better. In fact, he knew the donor in question. Not very well, but enough to know he was, for lack of a better term, a complete jackass.

Sighing, Theo ran over the basics in his mind. Justin Ziegler, twenty-seven years old. Obviously athletic, unmarried, and the military training was there. It seemed the perfect choice until one checked the records more closely. While he'd somehow managed to avoid getting into serious trouble, his records showed several instances of insubordination as well as recklessness. According to his medical records, Ziegler had on one occasion given himself a concussion by letting his friends imitate wrestling and ram his head into the wall. For all they knew, he probably had some brain damage. Theo knew the son only through the father, and the son was even more narrow-minded and arrogant. The only reason he was in that hospital bed was because he'd had too much to drink before getting behind the wheel.

Sure, Theo could say no, but then what was left? Nothing. At the moment, Ziegler was their only choice. With their funding being threatened, and their research at a critical stage, a donor had to be found. Soon. Unfortunately, unless a miracle happened, they were stuck with what they had. Perhaps it would work out; perhaps a second chance at life might shock Ziegler into cleaning up his act. Nothing like staring death in the face to get someone to accept responsibility.

But still the doubts lingered. Theo gritted his teeth. It wasn't right. The donor was too risky. Well trained, yes. Experienced, perhaps. Mature... the jury was still out.

A knock on the door broke into his thoughts. "Come in."

"Sir?" A familiar shaved head poked its way through the door, followed by the rest of the agent in question. "You told me to inform you in the event of any other options."

Theo turned, taking the manila envelope from the agent's outstretched hand, skimming the topmost page. "How long ago?"

"Forty-five minutes, tops. Declared DOA, but we managed to stabilize what mattered." The agent looked fairly uncomfortable. "Considering there wasn't much else left."

Nodding, Theo flipped through the new set of records in his hands. Michael Wiseman, forty-three years old. No military history, married, one daughter. Formerly an insurance executive. Theo grimaced. At least that meant he had a college education.

Seeing the look on his superior's face, the agent shifted from foot to foot. "It's either this or Ziegler, sir." Theo made a dismissive noise. "They said it was your call."

Damn right. This was his project, after all. It was what years of research was building up to. "How much time until our window closes?"

"An hour at most."

Theo scanned the file for a second time before speaking. "I need to think about this." Taking his cue, the agent left the small office.

Alone again, Theo leaned back and studied the records before him more closely. No criminal history, aside from a few parking tickets. Received his Master's in business from Columbia University, so it was safe to say Wiseman wasn't ignorant. But he also had absolutely no military training to speak of. They'd have to start from the ground up with a civilian. Which meant that they would have to devote a sizeable amount of time just going through the basics.

Of course, with Ziegler they might have to spend just as much time undoing some of his training in favor of some of the techniques they specifically planned to implement. Not to mention taking down his ego a few notches. The problem with having a previously trained brain was that the old training potentially conflicted with the new. It would almost be easier to start from the beginning.

The biggest concern, of course, was how to sever either donor from his past. Either case would prove difficult. Even from skimming his file, Theo could tell that Wiseman probably wouldn't be eager to part with his. You could tell a devoted family man pretty easily nowadays since the phenomenon was so scarce.

Ziegler probably might not have as much trouble with it - but keeping his identity under wraps would be difficult. The problem was his father's connections. Bryan Ziegler was widely known on Capitol Hill, and intensely suspicious of any covert activity, even if it was for the benefit of national security. You never knew when you might run into someone who knew the man, even if they worked in intelligence. Theo still hadn't worked out how to effect the transplant in Ziegler's case without inviting suspicion.

Wiseman's brain, on the other hand, was all ready to go. It was far less likely that an insurance salesman would have any acquaintances among the agencies they'd be working with.

True, the "investors" wouldn't like it. Theo could just see Senator Kinsey gnashing his teeth and complaining about the three billion dollars wasted. But it was Kinsey and others like him who were rushing them, so eager for results that they were forcing him to pick the first decent brain that came along.

After all, it was his project. He didn't want a twenty-something brain to go with the perfect twenty-something body they were poised to create. That would almost defeat the purpose, in a way. Perhaps Mr. Wiseman might be a bit more appreciative at a second chance at life. He might even be more controllable than a hot-headed insubordinate Marine who didn't always follow orders. At the very least, he had to be less obnoxious. *Anyone* had to be less obnoxious.

From the start, Theo had been against the idea of using Ziegler as a donor, and not just because of the man's faults. Naturally, his faults had plenty to do with it. But Theo knew him; that was the crux of the matter. To use the mind of a man he knew, even an acquaintance, would never do. Even if Ziegler did clean up his act, did behave responsibly, and did get the job done, Theo would still see the reckless, insubordinate kid who had only avoided being kicked out of the Marine Corps thanks to his father's influence.

Once again, he was trying to convince the practical side of himself what his gut instinct already knew. He could not accept Justin Ziegler as the donor. And while the alternative before him was not ideal, it was far more preferable. As miracles went, this was probably the best he would get.

He knocked on the door, and the agent opened it. "We're going with the subway option."

The other man only nodded, knowing better to argue as Theo stacked up the files and placed them in their appropriate folders. He stepped out into the corridor, carrying the case histories under one arm.

Yes, there would be some opposition. Yes, there would be a few irate Senators. Yes, there would be some difficulty. On the outside, it seemed like a ridiculous decision, but anyone who was fully aware of the alternatives would understand. Maybe it was a flawed choice, but Theo was sure it was the best they had.

Besides... how much trouble could an insurance salesman be?


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